What Travel Taught Me About Living

Published March 18, 2021 by Sheila Anne Murray

Two years ago I was in the midst of planning a trip. Not just any trip - “The Trip.” The one that my heart had ached for for years, the one that had kept me up at night, the one I silently worried would never come to fruition.

The trip would mean a one-way ticket, quitting my job, leaving my life in Boston, breaking up with financial stability, and staying hello to freedom.

When I pursued my travel dreams with my partner, James, I pursued a path of life exploration, bucking the norm, and living bigger.

Arches National Park

1. Choosing Ourselves Is Amazing And Messy

Travel, like life, is so much more than the “doing.” It is also the “being,” the choices, the going with the flow. You don’t just end up somewhere, you have to commit to the plane ticket, pack the bag with care, choose your group (or solo!), hemming and hawing about your path.

In a recent interview, I reflected on how this trip represented the first time that I chose myself. It was right after my Mom passed. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I think I need to go.” It was a trip I had been dreaming about for years but something had always told me to hold back.

Over the next few months, I quit my office job and started working at a fitness startup, which I loved. But the force that was calling me “out there” into the world was too strong to ignore.

I quit my new job — that offered a clear path to quantum-leap promotions — and I chose me.

Here’s the messy though — I don’t want to romanticize this choice. Choosing oneself is not always easy or final. Very often it’s confusing and challenging as heck. In my experience, you don’t just wake up with a rewired brain that doesn’t require external validation, career success, certainty about the future, or unshakable confidence. You have to build that. And you have to build it continuously.

When I work with my clients on redesigning their lives, we have to continuously dig deep into the self. With more expansion, we reach new obstacles. It’s a wonderfully beautiful thing.

Traveling taught me that to be on the journey, commit to the things that are truly calling your heart, and expect that the messy is part of what creates a big, bold, beautiful life.

Traveling light

2. Be Kind To Yourself - Carry Little On Your Back

When thinking about backpacking the world, what do you imagine putting in that bag? You’d likely choose things that were multi-purpose, comfortable, and probably some nourishing snacks for fuel!

You might leave behind things that were heavy, bulky, or didn’t belong where you’re headed.

Let’s think about that in life terms.

Along your journey you have the opportunity to pick things up and carry them, leave things behind, and shed layers. At some point you have to trust that you already have all the resources you need to move forward. If you don’t you’ll never get on the plane. You’ll stay home, adding and removing things from your bag.

But if you feel committed to taking that trip, you’re going to want to be kind to yourself and pack smart and light. When James and I were traveling we used the motto “travel light experience heavy” (and yes it’s our hashtag you can search on Instagram 😉).

Things to consider taking on your journey: growth mindset, nurturing relationships, confidence in your skillset, belief in your purpose, curiosity for what the universe might deliver.

Things you might leave behind: old grudges, self-critical thoughts, stale energy, habits you’ve outgrown, people that keep you playing small.

I trust that everything I need at this moment, I already have. Sometimes I just need to repurpose what I have or make use of something that’s fallen to the bottom of the bag. In the rare times I do require something new, I trust that it will serve my next-level self, wherever she is headed.


3. You Can’t Ignore Your Vital Needs

Ah yes, this one. I’ve seen both in myself and others a very interesting pattern. We achievers tend to also have tunnel vision. When you are striving for a promotion, increased income, fitness goals, a booming romantic life, it can feel like nothing but that “thing” matters. But my friend, we are whole people. Often when we are in action we let the one thing slip that we need most — our wellbeing.

I imagined that time on the road would be wild and free — non-stop fun, exploring, and bouncing from place to place. I forgot about my body and my emotions. Even the most beautiful landscapes will not take away deep grief. Even the most adventurous days will not lessen the importance of sleep, water, and rest.

While traveling I experienced emotional heaviness (riding the waves of grief) and physical challenges (gut health on the road). James wasn’t immune to these things either. What became vital for us was establishing norms for self-care. We began to take plenty of rest days; we removed the pressure of getting 1,000 things done in each location; we remembered to let our “humanness” be part of the adventure.

By prioritizing our vital needs we grew exponentially in our relationship. We supported each other completely, asked for what we needed, and allowed ourselves to be 100% authentic along the way.

Whether you’re on your path toward promotion, being a parent, or launching a business, remember that you are also a human. The more that you can accept that and prioritize your vital needs, the faster you will grow. The bonus is that others in your life and those that look up to you will see that they, too, can embrace their needs and wellbeing while striving in their journey.

Lounging during sunset in Barcelona

4. Living Is So Much More Than Daily Progress

I almost didn’t travel because of a gap in my resume. I know I’m not the first to think this — I hear of people miserable in their jobs but unwilling to leave, even with financial security, because of how it may look to future prospective employers.

The first time that I full-body believed in this was after my Mom died. There is something about death that wakes us up to life. That’s what happened to me, anyway. I had spent so much energy terrified of lost progress if I wasn’t operating at 150% daily, that I had lost sight of the importance of living.

Loss reminded me of the sacredness of life and travel woke me up to living.

It’s the quiet moments. The silence between breaths. The days of rest. The wonder found in a single landscape. The depth of a story. The capacity to open your heart and mind.

We are obsessed with Fitbit steps, emails, outbound calls, happy hours, macros, and PRs. While these can be exciting metrics, they do not represent the whole of who we are or who we will become. The danger of identifying ourselves and others by progress and success metrics is that we miss out on unique gifts, dreams, energy, and potential.

Packrafting in Slovenia

5. You Get To Pick Your Path! (But You Can’t Control The Path’s Weather).

During our 4 months on the road we experienced the full spectrum of weather. Snow in Slovenia, heat waves in Spain and France. While we had control over our itinerary and our locations, we had to surrender other variables to the universe. Some days on the road were fast-paced and packed. Others were slow and meandering. In fact, there was so much rain during our three weeks in Slovenia that we actually spent almost entire days in my friend’s apartment.

When you step into the driver’s seat of your life, you start making more intentional and aligned decisions for yourself. You call the shots of how to plan your day, protect personal and professional boundaries, and plan your career path. That said, you also have to expect and prepare for variability, for rainy days, for opportunities disguised in surprising packages.

When we decide to live bigger, more aligned and inspiring lives, we must practice letting go of what we can’t control and doubling down on what we can. If James and I had spent our days inside, cursing the weather, we wouldn’t have been able to inspire new ideas, cultivate good energy, and enjoy any little bit of the experience. Whenever I find myself pushing and forcing, I know that I’ve dropped out of alignment. When I’m in the flow, strutting down my path, and accepting both the easy and the challenging — that’s when the magic really happens. I move forward with focused intention, while allowing circumstances to shift, rise, and fall around me.

If you’ve ever taken a life-changing trip or had an immersive experience, you know that the effects continue to pulse and ripple long after the experience has culminated. This trip is one of those for me — continuing to send me lessons, remind me what’s important, and motivate me to stay focused on the present path while being curious about where it may lead.

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to continue the conversation, head over to my contact page or send me a DM on Instagram. If you’d like to learn more about how I’m helping women to transform their lives, visit my Working Together page for more!

Sheila Anne